Obituary: Professor John Guyett Scadding

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
JOHN GUYETT SCADDING, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at London University, was one of the most brilliant physicians of his generation and the father of respiratory medicine in Britain.

He was only 27 years old when he was appointed consultant physician at the British (now Royal) Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, at its inception in 1935. The school became a powerhouse of academic medicine, in which Scadding's talents thrived. In 1939 he obtained an additional post as physician to the Brompton Chest Hospital.

During the Second World War, he served as Lieutenant-Colonel in charge of a medical division in Egypt. Whilst there he was summoned by Lord Moran to assist in the care of Winston Churchill, who had become ill with pneumonia soon after arriving at General Eisenhower's villa in Carthage. Subsequently referred to in the British press as "Churchill's doctor", Scadding, with his typical modesty, said that he disliked the description because he had no wish to be identified as the doctor to any one person, however distinguished.

On return from war service Scadding set about developing academic medicine at the Brompton Hospital. Some distinguished consultants were suspicious of new-fangled academics with their scientific and sceptical approach to clinical medicine. Scadding gained their acceptance because, aside from his talents as a physician, he was always courteous and even-handed in his relationships with his colleagues. His clinical opinion was frequently sought and he became known as the consultant's consultant. He would write a lucid account of his views in the patient's case notes in a distinctive copperplate handwriting. His approach to patients and their illnesses was both scientifically objective and compassionate.

He became the first Dean and Director of Studies at the inauguration in 1947 of the Institute of Diseases of the Chest at London University, and devoted a major part of his professional life to its development, from modest beginnings, to become an internationally acclaimed centre for teaching and research. Scadding said of the early days, when progress could be slow and frustrating, that perhaps his greatest contribution was, "patient endurance".

Scadding delighted in teaching and his lectures and ward rounds were stimulating, often laced with dry humour. In demand as a lecturer, he was visiting professor to seven universities in North America. A master of clarity and precision in the use of words and an authority on medical semantics, especially in regard to the definition and classification of diseases, he was interested in the interface between scientific and philosophical reasoning. His publications covered many aspects of respiratory medicine but he is best known for his seminal work on sarcoidosis and his studies in fibrosing alveolitis.

In 1946 he became a founder member of a Medical Research Council Committee set up to study recently discovered drugs for the treatment of tuberculosis, then a common disease in Britain. These innovative studies were paramount in establishing the cure of tuberculosis by drugs, one of the important medical achievements of the century. Tuberculosis declined rapidly in Britain and many tuberculosis clinics, hospitals and their staff were becoming redundant. This threw into jeopardy the future of services for respiratory medicine. The Scadding Report on the future of the chest services (1968) was crucial in redefining the role of respiratory medicine within the National Health Service.

Guy Scadding took great joy in family life with his wife Mabel, their two daughters and son (who became a neurologist), and their many grandchildren. Devoted to 18th-century music, he was an accomplished pianist. An enthusiastic hill-walker, he was particularly fond of the Lake District. In retirement, he acquired new skills as a landscape painter.

His intellectual powers remained undiminished by age and he gave his last lecture at the Royal College of Physicians this year, aged 91.

Kenneth Citron

John Guyett Scadding, physician: born London 30 August 1907; Physician, Brompton Hospital 1939-72; Physician, Hammersmith Hospital, Royal Postgraduate Medical School 1946-72; Dean, Institute of Diseases of the Chest, London 1946-60, Director of Studies 1950-62, Professor of Medicine 1962-72 (Emeritus); Editor, Thorax 1946-59; Honorary Consultant in Diseases of the Chest to the Army 1953-72; President, British Tuberculosis Association 1959-61; President, Thoracic Society 1971-72; married 1940 Mabel Pennington (one son, two daughters); died Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire 10 November 1999.

Comments